Mauritania: Women Fear Imprisonment For Reporting Rape
Monday, January 10, 2011 3:45 PM

In the North African country of Mauritania, women who have been raped fear that they will be put in prison if they take their rapists to court. Due to a legal system that criminalizes rape victims, instead of perpetrators, and the social taboo of rape, victims do not report rape cases.
There is no law that defines rape in Mauritania. The country’s penal code is based on Sharia law which forbids relationships between men and women outside marriage. These laws prohibit consensual relationships between a boyfriend and girlfriend but have also been used to criminalize rape victims. Women who are raped need to provide strong evidence or they could be accused of “Zina” (an Arabic word meaning sex outside marriage) and be sent to jail. For these reasons, some lawyers counsel rape victims not to bring charges against their rapists.
Some advances have been made to change the law. The UNFPA, along with AMSME (a U.N-funded organization concerned with maternal and child health in Mauritania) have been working with the government, police, judges, and religious leaders to create a law that defines rape and protects victims. Police contact AMSME when a woman reports a rape. One woman, Zeinebou Mint Taleb Moussa, opened a center to help victims of rape in 2001. The El Wafa center continues to work with police and rape victims.  
Compiled from: Mohamed Yahya Abdel Wedoud, Rape victims fear being jailed in Mauritania, CNN, (22 December 2010); Sexual Violence Research Initiative.